Tag Archives: dogs

Heatstroke in dogs. Know the signs and take action.

26th June 2015

Summer is upon us, folks and we are not the only ones who have the suffer through the heat.  Our pets are among the most vulnerable to the dangers of heat stroke.  There are no statistics regarding heat stroke in dogs because most of these cases go unreported but it is estimated that several hundred pets suffer this unnecessary fate every summer.  

Don't let your pet suffer from heat

Dr. Amy Thomason at Westlake Animal Hospital has shared her knowledge and expert advice with us so that we can be prepared in the event our pets become overheated (or hyperthermic).  Obviously, prevention is the number one piece of advice anyone can give pet owners so make sure you take appropriate measures during warm seasons.  Keep your pets indoors during the hottest parts of the day (late afternoon) and always have fresh water accessible and as well as a  shaded, well ventilated area for them to cool off.  Never leave your pet in the car, even if you crack the windows and even if it’s “just for a minute”.  This happened just last week in California.  And, while we’re at it, try to remember not to leave your kids in the car either. 

Now, here’s what you need to know in the event your dog does suffer from heat stroke.  Even the fittest pets can become hyperthermic and this condition, if untreated or treated incorrectly, can result in major organ damage and even death so, please read on.  

Normal body temperature for a dog is at

Reasons why a pet would be unable to dissipate heat: 

  • Obesity
  • Brachycephalic conformation  (lookin’ at you, pugs, bulldogs, frenchies, etc.)
  • Laryngeal paralysis/upper airway obstruction
  • Cardiovascular or respiratory disease
  • Extremes in age (very young, very old)
  • Central nervous system disease, including prolonged seizures
  • Water deprivation
  • Poorly ventilated areas
  • High humidity
  • Heat Prostration (collapse or loss of consciousness) 

This is a LIFE THREATENING CONDITION, not to mention agonizing.  When internal temperature is above 105, a true emergency exists.  Above 109 degrees, organ damage occurs in kidneys, liver, intestines and brain.  Prolonged temperatures over 109 degrees causes irreversible neuronal death which causes coma and permanent brain damage.  

Appears distressedPants

Remember, pets may recover if intensive supportive care is initiated but TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!!!  Here’s what you can do at home before you take the pet in for veterinary care.  

  • Remove your pet from the environment where the hyperthermia occurred
  • Move to shaded or cool environment and direct a fan on them
  • If possible, determine rectal temperature and record it
  • Begin to cool the dog by placing cool, wet towels over the back of the neck, armpits, and groin areas
  • Wet the ear flaps and paws with cool water
  • OR use cool water from a garden hose
  • Transport to the closest veterinarian ASAP

Seems pretty logical, right?  I mean who here hasn’t had used the same methods on themselves after a little too much time in the sun?  But possibly more importantly, here is what NOT TO DO. 

  • Do not use very cold water or ice for cooling.  It forms an insulating layer of tissue to hold the heat inside.  Cooling the innermost structures of the body will actually be delayed.  Instead, use cold tap water.  
  • Do not overcool the pet.  A reasonable goal of cooling pet is to reduce your pet’s body temperature to 102.5-103 degrees while transporting to veterinarian. 
  • Do not attempt for force water into your pet’s mouth, but have fresh cool water available to offer should your pet be alert and show interest.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended for any length of time.

When you arrive at your veterinarian’s office, you can expect swift action to continue cooling and rehydrating your pet.  The following, are some things that may be necessary to help your pet recover. 

  • Monitor temperature every 5 minutes
  • Continue cooling with cold tap water in tub
  • IV Fluids – cooled if possible
  • +/- Isopropol alcohol applied to feet/pads
  • +/- Fan for cooling
  • +/- Oxygen Therapy

With timely and appropriate action both on your part and that of your doctor’s, your pet stands the best chance for recovery.  However, the prognosis will depend on the length of time the dog was hyperthermic, the amount of organ damage incurred, and your pet’s response to intensive supportive care.  If DIC, organ failure, cerebral edema, coma, gastrointestinal damage or septicemia have occurred, your pet’s prognosis will be poor to grave so again, prevent this by acting fast.  

I believe that as humans, we are responsible for honoring and valuing the lives of our neighbors, whether they be fellow humans or man’s best friend.  If you see a dog in distress from heat or this happens to your pet, take action immediately.  It is no joke.  You could save a life.  Thank you, Dr. Amy Thomason and all the staff at Westlake Animal Hospital in Austin, who have treated many pets suffering from heatstroke and work hard each day to educate pet owners in order to prevent this and many other harmful situations, helping pets to live longer and healthier lives.  

The Moment of truth for my dog’s dental health

22nd February 2015

In a recent blog post (okay, maybe not super recent…),  I discussed pet dental health, why it’s important and gave you some key pieces of information about how to prevent dental disease, which can lead to other, more serious problems.  In continuation of my effort to shed some light on the issue, I will chronicle my own dog’s recent teeth cleaning adventure at Westlake Animal Hospital.  Our experience is a direct example of the importance of regular dental cleanings with anesthesia and x-rays.  Read on to find out what the procedure entails (get it?) and what surprises we found  along the way.

(BONUS: February is Pet Dental Health month and Westlake Animal Hospital is offering some great deals! Check them out here.)

So, there we were.   Just a regular snoozy morning in the life of Fiona, the dog,  when she was abruptly awakened before dawn to be driven to the vet for her yearly dental cleaning.  Sorry, girl.

Here’s what we expected:  A fair bit of tartar build-up and some gingivitis. Admittedly, I stopped brushing her teeth a few years ago.  Forgetfulness and downright laziness are mostly to blame.  Still, at eleven years old, she usually cleans up quite well at her yearly cleaning.  This is her before picture:

Hence, the dog breath.

Hence, the dog breath.

Here’s what we DID NOT expect:  A fractured molar and exposed root, needing to be extracted.  For those of you who don’t know which one the molar is (#309). Here’s a chart.  Bottom line, it’s a big one and pulling it requires pretty significant oral surgery, plus a longer recovery period.  But dogs will be dogs, and apparently chewing on hard rock-like objects is her new thing, even though I’ve literally NEVER seen her do it.  Whatever, Fiona.

So, this is how it goes when you hand your dog (or cat) over to the staff at Westlake Animal Hospital for a dental.  Most reputable and AHAA accredited vets will do it more or less the same way so it should be a good indication of what you’re in for.

After check-in proceedings are complete, they draw a blood sample and run a lab test indicating whether your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia.  Fiona passed!


They place a catheter in the pet’s foreleg, allowing access to the bloodstream for medication and fluids, followed by a party hat to keep them from chewing it off.

After the doctor examines Fiona, she’s cleared for surgery.  Chris administers the anesthetic, intubates and hooks her up to the monitoring equipment.  All patients are monitored during the procedure for changes in: heart rate, respiration, temperature, blood pressure and blood oxygenation.  If a change occurs, there are simple measures that can be used to prevent a crisis, making the entire process very safe.  I mention this because some vets do not monitor animals while under anesthesia, so always be sure your doctor does.

Dental Procedure 1

Now that she’s fully anesthetized and hooked up with all the fluids and monitoring she needs, Chris, begins by taking x-rays.  Then, she will clean the teeth using fully sterilized tools.

Fiona's Extraction

After pulling the tooth, they take another x-ray to make sure that they have removed all parts of the tooth and its roots.

Problem tooth

So, as it turned out, my sweet little fur baby was in pain for an undermined amount of time due to a broken tooth and I don’t know if I ever would have found out about it or been able to help her if not for the thoroughness and professionalism of the doctors and staff at Westlake Animal Hospital.  And after all that thoroughness, they even had time to put the beer goggles on Fiona as she was recovering from anesthesia.


There is a technician specifically assigned to assist and tent to pets who are waking up.  They keep their temperature normalized with warm air and blankets and check their vitals every few minutes until they are completely recovered.  Talk about full service!

Fourteen days or so later, Fiona was back on regular dry kibble and happy as a clam with a mouthful (minus one) of clean, healthy teeth.  Now it’s up to me to keep them that way with regular brushing and cleanings.  

So, if you had any doubts or questions about getting your pet’s teeth cleaned, I hope I was able to shed some light on the subject.  All pets and their owners are different and I’m sure many of you had had your share of experiences with not only dental care, but veterinary care in general.  I would love to hear about your own critters and how you take care of their teeth so leave comments or questions below! Happy brushing!